A Fallen Israel
Romans 11:11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! 13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (NKJV)





Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome during a three month visit to the church in Corinth, Greece in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.

Chapter 9 marked the beginning of a new topic from the Apostle Paul. He launched into the problem of Israel’s unbelief. Chapters 9-11 discuss this topic.

In this passage, Paul poses the question of whether the nation of Israel, who has “stumbled”, will actually fall from God’s favor forever. He writes “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall?” (v. 11a).

His answer is “Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles” (v. 11b). The Israelites have not fallen forever. In fact, the reality that Gentiles have taken their place in God’s favor will “provoke” them to become jealous of the fact that salvation is now offered to the Gentiles.

Paul writes “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” (v. 12). The Israelites’ loss was the Gentiles’ gain. But when some Israelites turn to God in the millennium even more Gentiles will follow suit resulting in “riches for the world”. The world will benefit as more Gentiles come to Christ.

Next, Paul addresses those to whom he was called by God to take the Gospel, the Gentiles. He writes “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (vv. 13-15). The Israelites’ fall and jealousy will result in some Israelites and “the world”, the Gentiles, coming to Christ, with the result of all being accepted into eternal life in Heaven.

Then, Paul, the master preacher, gives two illustrations to explain God’s favor. First, he writes “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy;” (v. 16a). The “firstfruit”, Abraham, was holy, being set apart for God. He found favor with God. Just as all dough from a “lump” of dough is just as holy as the lump (Numbers 15:19-21), all of Abraham’s chosen line of descendants are just as holy as him.

 Paul’s second illustration is “if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (v. 16b). The “root” represents Abraham, and the branches represent those of Abraham’s chosen line.

Paul writes “And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,” (v. 17). The broken branches represent the “fallen”, unbelieving, Israelites. The branches of the “wild olive tree” that are “grafted in” represent the Gentiles, to whom the Gospel was taken after the rejection by the Israelites.

Their “grafted” branches have replaced the broken Israelite branches. The Gentiles now are eligible for the blessings of the “olive tree” that had initially belonged solely to the Israelites’.

The “olive tree” represents the nation of Israel in the Bible. In Paul’s illustration he is demonstrating how God’s favor upon Israel is being given over to the Gentiles due to Israel’s unbelief.

Paul then cautions the Gentiles to not boast of their new found position as grafted branches onto the tree. He writes “do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in’ “. (vv. 18-19). The faith of the root, Abraham, was the reason for the tree, the favor, being offered to the Gentiles.

“Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear” (v. 20). The unbelieving Israelites’ loss was granted to the Gentiles who had more faith, but maybe not enough. More faith than unbelievers is not saying much.

Since God did not spare the Israelites, he may not spare the Gentiles either. “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either (v. 21).

If the Gentiles do not believe any more than the Israelites they may be “cut off” just as the Israelites. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (v. 22).

Also, if those unbelieving Israelites turn from their unbelief, they can still be grafted back in to the tree. “And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” (v. 23).

Since the wild olive tree branches, the Gentiles, were grafted into the natural olive tree, it would be even easier for the natural branches, the Israelites, to be grafted back in to the natural tree. “For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (v. 24).

Paul is saying that Israel’s future has not yet been decided. So far most have fallen and rejected Jesus. But the story is not finished. There is still time for the nation of Israel to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

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Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary